Wednesday, July 16, 2008

a journey to Borneo #5


Presbytis hosei canicrus extirpated from Kutai National Park ????

We have spent twenty days in Kutai National Park since 5 March 2008, looking for the rarest leaf monkey Presbytis hosei subspecies canicrus, however there is no any clues that the monkey still exist in Kutai. We visited established three research sites in this national park, Prefab, Mentoko, and Melawan and spent 3 – 7 days in each site. This is the first survey after three decades since last conducted by P. S . Rodman in 1978, found Presbytis hosei density at 2.6 groups/km2 in Mentoko , and then reported that after forest fire 1982-1983 which remained 25% of 3 km2 forest at Mentoko, there were still 6 groups of Hosei, the last report during 1988 still found Hosei in Kutai National Park. Massive forest fire during 1987-1988 in Kutai National Park in east Kalimantan had already devastated almost the whole area and only remaining 5% forested area (Meijaard and Nijman,2000). Unfortunately, there is no detail hosei report after that.

We conducted the survey within 20 days including the boat survey along Sangata river, in fact we could not find nor hear both the population and calls of the Presbytis. Forests condition in Mentoko were only secondary forest after the forest fires, and were dominated mostly by the Macaranga species and shrubs, even to further extent other places are opened area within the interior. We assume that the massive forest fire during 1997-1998, was the main cause of the Hosei extirpation in Kutai.
The two other research stations were not better either, however small forest patches which were not totally burned or probably primary forest still could be found in Prefab and Melawan. That being justified by other primates found such as orangutan, gibbon, and pigtail macacaque. Another significant disturbance are the mining activities from the biggest coal mining corporation in east Kutai , that can be heard loudly from the Mentoko sites. Moreover human activities, such as encroachment, illegal logging, hunting and illegal settlement would surely cause serious problems in the future if no direct action to retain them in the Kutai National Park.

Based on the interviews with local people, they locally call the hosei as “Berangat” the vernacular name of Presbytis hosei, however People often face the difficulties to distinguish monkeys species especially Presbytis genus in their forest. Based on the information we got in the Kabojaya village, hosei monkey were frequently hunted in the past up until the end of ‘90s. They are hunt for bezoars stone “batu geliga” . Which price reached approximately US$20-30/gram. This was probably triggered by new inhabitants who worked in the logging, oil and coal companies and were interested in this mystic-traditional medicine. That’s one of the reasons why the hosei is very rarely found in Kutai now days.

The Sangata river, that is alternatively used for wildlife refugees area since the forest fire, has also been devastated conspicuously. Riverside forest and mangrove habitats along the Sangata river starting from Sangata lama town along to the river mouth has been converted to fish/shrimp farming, agriculture and illegal settlements. We found several groups of Bekantan (Nasalis larvatus) and another leaf monkey (Trachiphitecus cristatus) within the agriculture or plantation area. Although seems having little thickness, vegetation still could be used for primates to survive, orangutan nest were also found on the riverside trees.
198.629 km2 width of Kutai National Park are such a large area to be surveyed intensively within a short time period. It seems that although the Presbytis hosei is extirpated from Kutai, however there are still many possible areas that in all probability hosei exist.

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